Frequently arising in the day job is a topic fellow Flag contributor Margaret Hamilton rightly touched upon in her 7th February piece – foodbanks.
Foodbanks have featured the news sporadically over the past year however the running dry of one food bank in Glasgow – where supply simply couldn’t meet demand, and a session of Holyrood’s welfare reform committee http://www.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/scotland-26432858 where charities and organisations lined up to drive home the message that not only were foodbanks more necessary than ever but that their abundance was due to UK government welfare reforms, has ensured extensive coverage. To readers of third sector press this will not come as news.
For those unfamiliar with foodbanks, points to note :
No-one goes to a foodbank unless it is the last resort or have been referred there. Operators of these facilities have noted that people arriving for a pack of emergency supplies are most often utterly embarrassed and find it impossible to look volunteers in the eye afterwards.
‘Charity’ work has associations with helping those people on the fringes of our society – yet the families accessing food banks do not fit in with ‘typical’ recipients of such services. The evidence from charities themselves points to a vast increase in demand from individuals and families who work but have found the cost of living and eating just too high.
Since Victorian times charity work has existed in its current form to lift those most in need from the bottom of the pit. Methods may have changed, yet the stigma of receiving assistance from charity remains – and to none more so than those accessing these services for the first time. Charity is the helping of those most in need. It takes a very brave man, woman or family to admit they fall into that category.
Appalling figures recently published by a group of charities, Scotland’s Outlook http://scotlandsoutlook.org make for the kind of reading which should have politicians jumping out of their seats. 870,000 people, perhaps more, in Scotland and one fifth of all children right now are living “below the breadline” – i.e. in poverty. Last year alone 25,000 people in this country received help from food banks – a record figure and a terrible stain on our projection of Scotland as a modern northern European country striving to deliver a health and social care system befitting of the 21st century.
In order for us to exist as such alongside our much feted Scandinavian friends one thing is for certain – that a fifth of the population face penury daily must change.
Defending itself, the UK government reportedly argued that increasing demand for emergency supplies is foodbanks’ own fault – their logic being that by offering free food they have created a desire for ‘free stuff’ where before there was none.
Not only have charities spoken of the total humiliation involved when accessing a foodbank or getting a referral, but MSPs at the welfare reform committee heard from organisations which noted people with young children were walking four miles at a time to get to the charity – and this in an urban setting. I think this makes plain these are not the activities of people just nabbing free stuff.
The lack of understanding demonstrated by the UK government in their outrageous assertions can only fuel the belief they are out of touch with reality – certainly here in Scotland.
The figures stand up for themselves. Jo Roberts of Community Food Moray noted at the Scottish Parliament committee that prior to the welfare reforms coming into force last financial year, they had around 13 referrals a month. In April 2013 this went up to 59. In February 2014 there were 301 referrals.
In 2011/12 the Trussell Trust had 5,726 men, women and children access their emergency supplies. In 2013/14, the figure stands at over 56,000.
Ewan Gurr of the Trussell Trust pointed out that although foodbanks do not wish to form part of the welfare state it now seems clear they are doing so.
The aim of charities working in this domain is to prevent against starvation, ill-health, and the myriad of knock-on social problems which this causes. Emergency food supplies should be just that. As a country rightly proud of our welfare state – with Scotland being pioneers in the formation of this and our national health service – we have chosen to have a system in place which helps people in our communities who fall below the standard of living which we expect for ourselves as a right.
It is not that charities do not want to help those most in need when the demand is there. That a UK government policy pushes more people into this category however is entirely preventable and unacceptable.
We know that Scotland ought to be one of the richest countries in the world if in charge of its own resources, this argument has been made for many years and will continue to be. We have the natural resources, the economic infrastructure, the global reach and political will.
That we are stymied in our efforts by a UK government which is not representative of either the votes of Scotland’s people or the situation on the ground only serves to bolster the case for independence.
That UK government policies are directly driving honest working Scots to seek charity assistance in order to feed their families is an abhorrent situation but one which in all likelihood will galvanise people to make a stand come September.
Denis Curran from East Kilbride charity Loaves & Fishes and Jo Roberts of Community Food Moray made it plain at the Holyrood committee when they said people face a simple choice , “to heat or to eat”. Most opt for the latter.
What kind of a country do we live in today when in the most abundant of European nations a fifth of our people live in poverty and, according to Loaves & Fishes, mothers go for three days without eating or heating in order to feed their children ?
There is an answer to how we solve this which will be familiar to readers of Scots Independent and supporters of an independent Scotland – a vote for Yes.
The Scottish Parliament has done well to mitigate against some of UK plc’s worst decisions – such as the bedroom tax. In fact the Parliament’s very existence when it eventually was reconvened was due to Thatcher’s terrible destruction of our industries and all the social problems this directly led to. Scotland has been dealt heavy blows by the Tories over the years.
With a Labour party still intent on its own destruction in Scotland by siding with the Tories and Lib Dems in the referendum, they have successfully allowed an SNP, representative of the population at large, to deliver the kind of policies they can only dream of, and put simply would not do due to their limiting relationship with their own London HQ. The No parties have made clear that for them, Westminster is king. The SNP, Greens and Independents now in Holyrood are speaking up for ordinary Scots.
With the rise in referrals to food banks due to UK welfare reform, and an obscene number of people forced into poverty by a UK government, I expect Scots will vote in September, and in very large numbers.
The contrast between a UK government intent on driving ordinary hard working Scots into the arms of charity, and a Scottish government doing everything within its limited power to mitigate against this has never been so stark.
Jimmy Halliday’s contributions to the Cause
Jimmy Halliday – lifetime Nationalist
To put matters into context, in 1955 the SNP contested only two Parliamentary seats in Scotland. Dr Robert McIntyre fought Perth and East Perthshire and Jimmy Halliday fought Stirling and Falkirk Burghs. Jimmy then became the youngest ever SNP Chairman and served 1956-70; in 1956 the entire SNP Conference delegates were photographed on the steps of the Allan Water Hotel, Bridge of Allan.
There will be a Referendum for Scottish Independence this year, which was unthinkable in the dark days of 1955. Jimmy died on 3rd January 2013 at the age of 85, and we will be publishing all his articles in the Scots Independent, all those we have electronic input for. It is anticipated we will publish a book with all his contributions over many years but this will have to wait until after the Referendum.
A tribute from the 1820 Society March 2013
On behalf of the 1820 Society I should like to add a Tribute to Jimmy Halliday to those already published since in addition to all his other accomplishments and long-standing SNP commitment he had been an Honorary Vice-President of the 1820 Society throughout the last decade of his long life. (Indeed since the 2011 passing of his fellow Honorary Vice-President, Councillor Jim Mitchell Jimmy had been our only surviving Honorary Vice-President.)
In his own comprehensive obituary Peter Wright refers to the publication of a booklet on the 1820 Rising based on a series of Scots Independent articles written by Jimmy Halliday (February SI)and subsequently collated under the title ‘THE 1820 RISING – The Radical War’. It was initially published towards the end of 1993 – to the particular delight of the 1820 Society’s Committee since it seemed to offer: ‘ a concise, reasonably priced – and therefore easily accessible – account of the last armed insurrection mounted for Scottish Freedom whose memory the Society exists to perpetuate ‘, as I myself subsequently wrote in my SI Review (March, 1994).
In consequence the Society swiftly ordered multiple copies of the booklet to re-sell to members and sympathisers so that – as Peter observes – it was ‘twice sold out’, and in 2005 the SI Board gave us permission to commission a reprint of it – by Clydeside Press, albeit with a different dust cover but the same text. *
We were also gratified by Jimmy’s dedication of his booklet ‘ To JOHN MURPHY, A Modern Paisley Radical…’ as the latter was the Society’s principal founding-father and at that time an Honorary Vice-President. Accordingly when John himself passed away in 2002 at the age of 75 we thought it was entirely appropriate that Jimmy should take his place, having already been elected as an Honorary Life Member of the Society.
Throughout the years of his association with the Society Jimmy was a constant source of encouragement to us in the frequently uphill task of keeping the memory of ‘1820’ alive at a time when the minds and energies of younger Nationalists were understandably focused on the contemporary struggle for Independence. He was also a generous donor to the Society’s funds.
Back in 1991, following the publication of his highly acclaimed ‘SCOTLAND – A Concise History’, containing generous ‘1820’ references unlike so many other similar academic publications, Jimmy had already honoured us by making the trip through from Broughty Ferry to Strathaven to speak – with all the authority of the professional historian that he was – at our annual James Wilson commemoration.
And more recently – in the spring of 2008 and already an octogenarian – he addressed our annual Bonnymuir commemoration, held at the new memorial erected by the Society at the ‘battlefield site’ during the previous year.
His contribution to Billy Kay’s recent Radio series on ‘The Cause’ also featured an authoritative summary of the 1820 Rising so that the relevant programme was broadcast under the title, ‘Free or a Desert ‘, an abbreviation of the famous 1820 slogan emblazoned on the banner of the Strathaven Radicals.
Ian O Bayne
* Copies are still available from the 1820 Society.